Class C-2: Hastings St. Cecilia wins program's first state championship since 2011

Hastings St. Cecilia's Makenna Asher, left, tries to block the shot of Crofton's Elyssa Tramp.

LINCOLN — The Asher family added another state championship to their crowded trophy case, and now Makenna Asher has her own story to tell.

The Hastings St. Cecilia junior — whose father Kevin has coached the school’s boys program to five state titles — scored a game-high 18 points, including a key fourth quarter 3-pointer in Class C-2 No. 1 St. Cecilia’s 63-45 win over No. 2 Crofton in the title game at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

Asher, whose older brothers played on St. Cecilia boys championship teams in 2015 and 2016, shot 5 for 6 from behind the arc and St. Cecilia made 9 of 17 3-pointer.

“Watching my brothers and my dad get two in a row, my dad get five here, it means a lot,” Asher said. “This is what we dream of as kids growing up, and I finally got one for myself.”

St. Cecilia (26-1) gained a measure of revenge against Crofton, which beat the Hawkettes in three straight championship games (2013-15), by building a double-digit lead in the first half and holding on through the Warriors’ fourth-quarter comeback.

Asher hit her first four 3s in the first half when St. Cecilia shot 61 percent from the floor. The Hawkettes took control with a 14-0 run — the first seven from junior Tori Thomas — in the second quarter to stretch their lead to 37-20.

St. Cecilia coach Greg Berndt said after shying away from the zone press in the Friday semifinal against Oakland-Craig, he reinstituted it Saturday, hoping to prime his team’s aggressiveness. The Hawkettes forced 12 turnovers in the first half.

“We’ve been the aggressor, and we came out in that,” he said. “I don’t know if it kind of threw them for a loop or it kind of got them sped up, but whatever it was, it led to some turnovers and some easy offense for us in the first half.”

But after the Warriors cut their deficit to 47-39 at the end of the third, they closed to 49-45 with 4:23 left on three straight baskets from Lacey Sprakel, who scored a team-high 15.

That’s when Asher hit her final 3-pointer, kissing it off the glass from the left wing to push the lead to 52-45. That seemed to deflate Crofton, which wouldn’t score again as St. Cecilia added a second-chance basket from Katharine Hamburger and another 3-pointer by Bailey Kissinger that started a 14-0 run to end the game.

“We fought. We fought our tails off. They just stretched us out defensively,” Crofton coach Aaron Losing said. “Obviously, they made nine 3s. We tried to guard the 3-point line. At times, we did somewhat well. But, you have an uphill battle facing that team.”

St. Cecilia senior Lexi Vertin added 17 points and Thomas had a double-double (11 points, 12 rebounds). Vertin’s night capped a sterling final week of her high school career. The Nebraska track and field commit scored 21, 19 and 17 points in her three state tournament games after averaging 9.5 in the regular season.

“This was my last tournament ever,” she said. “I’m not playing basketball next year, so I was like, ‘Hey, let’s go out with a bang.’

“I had a little injury in the middle of the season, and it kind of set me back there. But it drove me to push myself to become a better person and a better player.”

C (23-4)................14 9 16 6 — 45

HSC (26-1)..........18 19 9 17 — 63

C: Danielle Steffen 1-4 0-0 3, Josie Sanger 4-9 2-2 11, Kaley Einrem 1-9 0-0 2, Alexis Arens 3-8 2-2 9, Lacey Sprakel 7-10 1-1 15, Elyssa Tramp 0-3 0-0 0, Aubree Potts 1-2 0-0 2, Ryah Ostermeyer 1-2 1-1 3

HSC: Gracie Daly 0-1 0-0 0, Bailey Kissinger 2-7 1-2 6, Lexi Vertin 5-12 6-9 17, Tori Thomas 5-9 1-1 11, Makenna Asher 5-7 3-4 18, Jenna Esch 0-0 1-2 1, Shaye Butler 0-1 0-0 0, Natalie Kissinger 1-3 0-0 3, Katharine Hamburger 3-4 0-1 7

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